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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Dit, defense do it for James Monroe

BOX SCORE

James Monroe kicker David Dit set an area record with two field goals in the Yellow Jackets’ 6–3 victory over Kettle Run in the 3A–East quarterfinals on Friday night.

But the 6-foot-6 senior was quick to give most of the credit to a fired-up JM defense for carrying the Jackets to their third straight trip to the state semifinals.

“I knew they had a good kicker, and I took it as a personal challenge,” said Dit, whose 17 field goals are the most ever in a single season by an area kicker. “But this game came down to pure heart, and our defense had more than theirs did.”

On a night when both offenses struggled to sustain any momentum, it was the Jackets’ big-play defense and the strong leg of Dit that proved to be the difference in another close game by the two regional rivals.

JM has eliminated Kettle Run (7–5) from postseason play for the past two years, 14–7 two years ago, and 37–30 last year.

Now the Jackets (8–4) will get to test their mettle against the No. 1 seed in the region, Lafayette, which routed Warren County, 63–7, on Friday.

“We’re playing the No. 1 team in the region and we have our work cut out for us,” said JM coach Rich Serbay. “But I don’t care. We’re practicing on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m happy as heck.”

Besides the strong kicking of Dit, Serbay had to be pleased with the stifling play of his defense, especially in the fourth quarter, when JM put the clamps on the Cougars’ talented quarterback, Denzel Champion.

Champion was the Cougars’ leading rusher with 45 yards and completed 10 passes, but found little room to maneuver in the last eight minutes, when Kettle Run tried to mount a comeback.

Linebackers James McFadden and Deonta Nelson and lineman Antonio Wynn–Coleman led the charge, keeping the Cougars in their own territory in the final minutes.

After Dit’s 36-yard field goal put JM in front 6–3 late in the third quarter, Coleman gave the Jackets a big lift when he stopped Champion on a fourth and 2 at the JM 38.

“Our defense had to step up this game, especially the defensive line,” said Wynn–Coleman. “We had been hearing that we we couldn’t stop them. We wanted to show what we could do.”

With 1:23 left, Kettle Run got one final shot at pulling out a win when Dit’s 32-yard field goal attempt sailed just to the right. But McFadden and the JM defense got the job done one last time and preserved the Jackets’ eighth victory of the season.

Neither team had much success on the ground or through the air. JM recorded just 192 yards of offense, while Kettle Run had just 181.

Cougars kicker David Szklennik, who booted three field goals in last year’s game like Dit, connected from 24 yards in the first quarter to give Kettle Run a 3–0 lead. But Dit answered from 38 yards four minutes later and JM’s defense did the rest.

“They’re quarterback [Champion] is one of those speedy kids,” said McFadden. “He’s a playmaker, but we just stayed home and made the plays when we needed to.”

Serbay was proud of the way his defense took charge late in the game and kept the Jackets in front.

“We had a gut check and our defense came through at the end,” Serbay said. “This was great game between two of the best 7–4 teams I’ve seen in a long time.”

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